Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Nett Lake Man Pleads Guilty to Setting Fire to the Bois Forte Reservation Tribal Center

Nett Lake Man Pleads Guilty to Setting Fire to the Bois Forte Reservation Tribal Center

A 20-year-old Nett Lake man pleaded guilty today in federal court to setting fire to the Bois Forte Reservation Tribal Center on July 20, 2009. Appearing before United States District Court Judge Patrick Schiltz in St. Paul, William Lynn Isham pleaded guilty to one count of arson. Isham was indicted on August 12, 2009.

In his plea agreement, Isham admitted he intentionally set fire to an automobile and the Reservation Business office. According to a Federal Bureau of Investigation affidavit, the Nett Lake and Orr fire departments responded to a fire call at the center shortly after 3 a.m. on July 20 Upon their arrival, they saw a vehicle parked in front of the building completely engulfed in flames. They also saw intense smoke and firing spreading throughout the building. The fire appeared to have been started at the rear of the structure. The State of Minnesota Fire Marshal ruled the fires were intentional and were started separately, the first being the vehicle and the second, the building.

Two witnesses told authorities that earlier in the evening Isham spoke about burning down the center. Isham then disappeared and later returned bragging about setting the fire. On July 28, 2009, Isham was recorded making similiar statements.

Isham faces a potential maximum penalty of 25 years in prison for his crime. Judge Schiltz will determine his sentence at a future date. This case is the result of an investigation by the FBI, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Bois Forte Tribal Police Department, and the Minnesota State Fire Marshal. It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Clifford B. Wardlaw.

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